I am ill again. No apparent reason. Just headaches, body aches, and a pain in the chest. Day-after-day sort of pain for a sufferer of diabetes and arthritis. But pain is a reminder that you are still alive. It grabs you by the collarbones and shakes you with the realization that whatever you are going to accomplish will be done over, under, or around the difficult obstacles thrown in your way. So, I better pick myself up and get going.
December so far has not been kind. When my family came home from their Thanksgiving trip to Florida, the two boys had the flu. And, of course, they gave it to me. I have been seriously ill for the better part of three weeks. Having diabetes and being unable to afford insulin, I guess I am lucky to even be alive at this point. But I was unable to do any substituting in December. So, no extra money comes in during January. I will be paying for it for a while.
But one bright spot in the whole sickness story was that my daughter had reached semester test week without getting the bug and without missing school. Ah, but the Christmas flu fairies had a different outcome in mind. Monday, by the end of the day, she was bright green in the face and suffering. She was beside herself with worry about testing. She forced herself to go to school the next morning and take her first period exam. She got her exam done, and made a perfect score of 100 on it. But then she had to come home and go directly to the doctor. Yep, the flu. And probably gotten from classmates who also are missing tests about now. Wednesday and Thursday was misery and vomiting and fevers. She will live through it, but not with smiles on her bright green face. The school is understanding about her missing the tests, and it will be made up.
So, I have to take care of her with caution. If it is a different flu than I recently had, the Florida flu, I could get sick again. And this time it could easily be a fatal flu. I am not afraid. I have battled flu so many times that it no longer scares me. I know what to do. And I will get through it.
I am having trouble writing today. I keep passing out for no particular reason. I know for a fact, if I go to the ER they will put me in the hospital and my tenuous hold on financial stability will go down that money drain. And my heart is not really the problem. My last hospital stay only yielded the theory that arthritis in my neck, in proximity to my spinal cord, is causing EKG machines to get false readings that suggest I am having a heart attack when I am not. It also complicated my bankruptcy situation. I cannot afford the health care I need. And I am not the only one in Trump’s America that has that problem. I don’t think I am going to die today. But there are no guarantees in life. Especially not in this hazy, cold morning in America.
Not everything is bad on this side of the mirror, though.
My family returns from Florida today. I have earned money from book sales on Amazon for the fifth month in a row, even though I am averaging less than two dollars a month. The sun is shining again in Texas after a stretch of arthritis-wringing pain from bad weather. I bought a gingerbread house kit at Walmart. I have at least one substitute teaching job this coming week.
I have passed the 35,000 word bar for my work in progress, long enough to qualify as a complete YA novel. But it isn’t finished yet, and probably going to be nearer to 50,000 words.
So, going forward, the world now looks very different. Thanos has been defeated. Trump is being impeached, though probably not removed. And though I am a pessimist, and am preparing for the worst, I am not unhappy about what the future may hold.
An infinite number of monkeys with and infinite number of word-processors will supposedly eventually type out everything I have ever written and everything I am going to write… As well as everything I will ever write with a random word misspelled or replaced with the wrong word. It would be an infinite mess. After all, infinite monkeys and infinite word-processors would fill infinite space and leave no room for infinite bananas. The monkeys would all starve after the initial typed manuscripts are completed, and any surviving monkeys that randomly evolved an ability to eat word-processors would die from exposure to infinite rotting monkey corpses. The whole thing gets gruesome after a while.
But let’s get serious for a moment. (Something that is generally difficult for Mickey.) Monkeys with type-writers will not solve my essential problem. I will not run out of stories before I run out of time for story-telling. And I find it totally creditable that my time is almost gone.
I am ill again, with a viral infection that gives me headaches, low-grade fever, and a wicked cough. I feel horrible. I had chest pains last night that led to a serious debate yet again. If it had been a heart attack, that would’ve been the end. I cannot survive economically another hospital bill. So, I have to go on the theory that since the last heart-attack scare was only arthritis in the ribs and the strange effect that has on EKGs, this one must also be the same. I can’t afford any other conclusion. And since I am still alive to write this, it was obviously the correct conclusion to draw.
The titles I have listed above, still in my stupid old head, are eleven more books I will add to my growing list. This is, of course, entirely dependent on how much longer I have before the darkness claims me for all time. I have writing to do. No more days off. And if I get five more years of two books a year, I just might make it. But last night convinced me that the effort may end at any time. So, though I am sick, I better get busy and write something.
As a nudist… well, I am not a very good spokesman for nudism, because I rarely get to be nude… and never really socially. I have seen a lot of nude people in my life. My own children, my nieces and nephews… I have at various times seen all but one of them naked. I have actually changed a lot of diapers, though that has been pretty much a long time ago. I have been around naked nudists a number of times. And I even spent an afternoon at a nudist camp one time. But this isn’t about being a nudist… even a never-nude nudist. It is about the morality of drawing nude people.
I enjoy drawing the nude human form. Man, woman, or child… nudes are beautiful to contemplate. But in our generally sexually repressive society, child nudes are a touchy subject. A lot of people who want to tell you what is wrong with your life and what to correct about yourself believe nudity is always about sexuality. And here’s a bit of naked truth about nudity… I am a victim of a sexual assault when I was a mere boy. Not an assault that provided any sexual gratification to me. I was sexually tortured and caused pain, both physically, and long-lastingly psychologically. It interferes with the entirety of my psycho-sexual development. I have never touched a niece or a nephew when they were naked, except when changing them as babies. I have trouble touching my own children, nude or not, as a result of what my attacker did to me. I have missed out on a humongous number of hugs and caresses, and maybe even kisses. My love life has always been a challenge, and it makes me approach child-nudity with great caution and trepidation.
The thing I have learned about the nudes I draw and paint, especially the child nudes, is that the pictures, no matter how innocent in concept, have a dark edge. They are not evidence of any sexual misconduct on my part. Considering the facts of my own life, I am determined to never be any kind of threat to any child. In fact, they are safer with me than with most other people. I know what can actually happen if you do not guard against it.
That is not the way some people will see them, though. I have been accused of being too fond of young boys before. But no kid who ever spent time with me as a mentor, dungeon master, or friend would fail to contradict that. Several did contradict that. I am provably not a homosexual, let alone a child predator threatening to boys. But this picture of Fernando Faun is not evidence of anything anyway. The actual model wore swim trunks in the photo I made it from. Only the face is Fernando’s, and I definitely changed his race and skin-color. And if anything at all can be learned about this picture, it is that, in truth, it is more a picture of me than it was of Fernando. It is about enjoyment of the naked part of being a boy, a zest for life and sensuality, that I painted because the fact of it was denied to me. I never got the chance to be like that anywhere but in my imaginary world where this painting is actually set.
I really can’t claim, though, that young girls would be as safe around me as boys are. I would never actually touch one, or even intentionally make her feel uncomfortable if I could help it. I could not promise, though, that my old brain would be completely free of all lustful thoughts.
But the whole point I am trying to make is that we are naked in more ways than just the physical. There is a need to be naked more. And by that I mean, we need to shine lights on our inner selves, to show the world who we truly are. I should not hide myself or my work from the sight of others. Letting you see these naked pictures, and at the same time, talking about my naked fears, is a kind of naked honesty that helps me to talk about what happened to me once upon a time. And it helps me heal. Repressing such things does harm to the soul.
It seems sometimes, in a Judaeo-Christian society, that we are a constantly being scrutinized by a rather harsh all-knowing God who rewards getting the faith-words accurately correct, to the letter, and the faith-based actions perfect, without a single mistake. And He punishes missteps of word or deed with pain and suffering and the potential of an eternity in Sheol or Hell. And that is a tough God to live with. He is like a teacher who uses his or her God-like powers to reward or punish to lead his students all down an exacting, narrow path to a destination that does not have room for everyone when they arrive.
It doesn’t take long in childhood for a highly intelligent person to realize before childhood is over that this cosmology is actually a load of horse pucky. It didn’t even take long for somebody as semi-stupid as me.
What I like about listening on YouTube to the wisdom of Alan Watts is that he gives us an alternative way of seeing the universe and ourselves. This he can offer through his studies of Eastern and Buddhist philosophies. Everything appealing in John Lennon’s signature song “Imagine” comes from Lennon’s love of listening to the lectures of Alan Watts. He is obviously a wise-guy.
Alan Watts teaches us the pathways that lead to finding yourself, who you truly are, and how you fit into the universe as a whole. When Carl Sagan says that we are all made of star-stuff, he is not only telling us what is literally true, as the elements our bodies were formed from were literally made in the nuclear forges at the centers of stars that later exploded in nova-bursts to scatter the elements across the skies of everywhere. He is also telling us that what Alan Watts says is metaphorically true, that everything in the universe is part of the same thing and we are all one in this way.
There is plenty to worry about in my little life. I could easily drop dead at any time from any one of my six incurable diseases or even the return of the skin cancer I beat in 1983. I suffer from the consequences of disease daily, as I have for many years now. My sins are many. I broke my promise the other day to never show you the horrors of my naked body on this blog. I constantly eat the wrong thing and continue to do things that I know are bad for the environment and the health of my body. I am prejudiced against racists, stupidity, and the actions of dedicated Trump-lovers. In many ways I deserve God’s wrath and brutal correction. I have come to truly believe that climate change is going to end life on Earth. I am horrible.
But I have learned from Alan Watts that all of those concerns mean nothing. I don’t believe in Heaven or an afterlife. But I do not fear death. I am one with the universe. And the universe goes on even if I do not. And I will always be a part of it, even after I am no longer alive. The universe has a mind and is intelligent And I take part in that because one small part of that intelligence is me, and lives in my head.
There is comfort to be found in the words of Alan Watts. And living in pain as I do, I really need that comfort most of the time. That is why I have attempted to share a bit of that comfort with you.
Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.
In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.
So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.
“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.
“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”
“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”
So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.
I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).
I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?
Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.
I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.
So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.